What are the basic conditions that the religion of Islam gives man?
In order to be able to understand the importance given to human rights in Islam, it is necessary to take a glance at the state of the world before Islam.
1. All of the states in the world used to be ruled by monarchy. The king, ruler or empire had full authority over the people he ruled. He could execute anybody he wished and he did not have to account for to anybody.
2. People were divided into classes. The people around the king, his relatives and noble people were the privileged class. On the other hand, there was a big mass of people who were despised and whose rights were violated; they formed another class. There were great differences between the classes.
3. Slavery was applied in its wildest form. Human honor was trampled.
4. People used to be treated based on their race and color; the superiority of lineage was regarded as the only criterion. People did not use to be evaluated based on their intelligence, knowledge, ability, ethics and virtues.
5. There were no basic rights and freedoms. Basic rights like freedom of religion and conscience, right of property, freedom of obtaining a dwelling, freedom of thought were not in question for an ordinary citizen. People used to be oppressed and tortured due to their beliefs and thoughts.
6. The basic principles of law were trodden under foot. It was impossible even to imagine basic legal concepts like legal equality, sovereignty of law, privacy and legality of penalty. There was no independent and impartial judiciary. Personal wishes and commands had replaced laws; people who committed the same crime were punished differently based on the class they belonged to.
When the world was in this state, the religion of Islam emerged and realized the greatest revolution in human history.
If it is viewed through fair eyes, it will be seen that the ultimate human targets that have been determined today had been determined both in the Quran and in the Sunnah of Hz. Prophet centuries before the human rights declarations were issued in the Western world.
As a matter of fact, the principles related to human rights included in the speech (Farewell Sermon) made by Hz. Prophet (pbuh) during the Farewell Hajj are the clearest example of it.
This sermon was recited in the presence of more than 100.000 Muslims in 632 AD; that is, 1157 years before the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen issued in 1789, which is regarded as the first written document regarding human rights.
The new principles introduced by Islam regarding human rights were very influential on the struggle of human rights in the West.
Man has a more different value than the other creatures. This value increases when he believes in Allah and obeys His orders. Thus, man becomes the most honorable guest of the universe. Man gains the value of humanity with his birth or even before it, with his formation in the uterus, and carries it throughout his life.
The value originating from being a human has encompassed everybody. This compassion has surrounded everybody, man or woman, old or young, black or white, weak or strong, poor or rich no matter what their religion, nation, race and color are.
Thus the religion of Islam protects all individuals’ blood from being shed, honor from being tarnished, property from being grabbed, house from being trespassed, lineage from being broken and conscience from being pressurized. It ensures human honor and dignity.
Basic rights and freedoms brought to humanity by Islam are as follows:
1. Islam ended racial and color discrimination. All people come from Adam. It is not possible for a person to choose his race and color. It is completely the predestination of Allah. It is completely wrong and harmful in terms of Islam and humanity to regard people different in terms of color and race and to despise some races and colors and regard others as superior.
Allah states in the Quran that He created people from a single pair of a male and a female, and made them into nations and tribes when their numbers increased so that they may know each other. (al-Hujurat, 13)
As it is seen, the reason why people are of different races and colors is to know and help one another not to claim to be superior.
An incident that will shed light on this understanding of Islam is as follows:
One of the Companions, Abu Dharr, got angry with Bilal al-Habashi one day and insulted him by addressing him as, “son of the black woman”. He despised Abu Dharr due to the color of his mother. When the Prophet (pbuh) was informed about the situation, the Prophet got angry and addressed Abu Dharr as follows:
— O Abu Dharr! You condemned Bilal due to the color of his mother? It means you still have the mentality of Jahiliyya!"
Abu Dharr, who had uttered those words as a result of a momentary fury involuntarily, became very sorry for what he had done and repented. He started to cry, lay down and put his face on the ground; then, he said,
“I will not lift my face from the ground unless Bilal comes and steps on my cheek.” He apologized to Bilal repeatedly.
2. Islam put an end to boasting due to superiority of one’s lineage and ancestors. In a meeting where the Companions were present, Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas asked some of the notables of the Companions to list their ancestors. Meanwhile, he listed his ancestors from the beginning to the end. Salman al-Farisi (Iranian) was also present there. He did not have ancestors that he could boast of like the Qurayshis. He did not know his ancestors in detail, either.
When Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas asked him to list his ancestors, he founded this request odd and said, “I am Salman; son of Islam. I do not know my ancestors like you do. I know only one thing. Allah honored me through Islam.”
Hz. Umar was also disturbed by this unnecessary offer of Sa’d which evoked the mentality of Jahiliyya. He liked this meaningful answer of Salman very much; he said, “I am Umar; son of Islam.” Thus, he gave a similar answer to Salman’s.
When Hz. Prophet (pbuh) heard about the incident, he liked Salman’s answer very much, too. He said, “Salman is of me; he is from my family.”
Hz. Prophet married the daughters of the noblest families of the Quraysh off to some freed slaves among the Companions; thus, he eliminated the Jahiliyya mentality based on the superiority of lineage.
3. Islam has given people the right to check and inspect their administrators. It aims to end arbitrary acts, oppression, injustice and lawlessness.
When Hz. Abu Bakr was chosen as the Caliph, he addressed the people as follows:
"O people! I was chosen as your administrator though I am not the best one of you. If I carry out my duty in accordance with Islam, obey me. If I deviate from the right path, warn me."
One day, during his Caliphate, Hz. Umar asked the Muslims in the mosque, "What will you do if I deviate from the right path? They said, "We will correct you with our swords." Hz. Umar became very pleased when he heard that answer.
4. Freedom of thought and conscience.Freedom of thought and conscience is the most important right after the right of life. Not to give a person this right means to remove him from his own self and reduce him to the level of animals. Therefore, Islam does not allow thoughts and consciences being pressurized. With the principle, “let there be no compulsion in religion”, Islam did not regard it appropriate to make people accept the principles of belief by using force.
5. Islam dealt with the institution of slavery meticulously and gave it a legal status.
When the religion of Islam emerged, slavery was widespread all over the world with its wildest and most inhuman practices. Islam naturally was not expected to completely abolish this system, which was widespread in the whole world. Therefore, it did not abolish slavery radically and suddenly but improved the conditions greatly and gave it the most humane and civilized form. Besides, Islam increased and eased the ways of freedom and introduced formulas that would end slavery indirectly.
6. Freedom of Property. Love of goods and desire to obtain property are among the various feelings that Allah gave man. This issue is stated clearly in the Quran.
Islam gave individuals the right of property and paved the way for them to satisfy this need legitimately. The right of property given by Islam to the individual can never be intervened without the permission of its owner.
7. Legal Equality. Islam regards all people as equal as the teeth in a comb in the presence of law. It does not allow privileged treatment based on the social state and lineage of people.
In Islam, the sovereignty and superiority of law is essential. A head of the state and an ordinary people are treated equally by law. The criminal is certainly punished even if he is the head of the state.
The trial of Fatih Sultan Mehmet and a Greek architect, Hz. Ali and a Jew, Salahaddin al-Ayyubi and an Armenian in the presence of qadis are the most striking examples of the issue.
On the day of the conquest of Makkah, a woman from the noble families of Makhzum tribe had committed theft and had been caught red-handed. She had to be punished. However, since she belonged to a noble family, they did not want the family to be dishonored; therefore, they wanted the woman to be forgiven. How would they do it? How would they tell the Prophet about it? Eventually, they decided to send Usama, whom the Prophet loved very much, to the Prophet. Usama went to the presence of the Prophet and told him about the issue. He asked the Prophet to forgive the guilty woman. The Prophet got very angry. He went out and made the following historical speech: “O people! Do you know the reason why the nations before you were destroyed? When a person of high rank committed a crime, they, they spared him. When an ordinary person committed a crime, they eagerly wanted him to be punished. This oppression caused their destruction. By Allah, if Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, were to steal, I would have her punished without hesitation.
Thereupon, the punishment was executed.
The sentences in the speech of Hz. Abu Bakr when he was chosen as the Caliph are remarkable.
"The weak ones among you are the strongest ones in my eyes until they obtain their rights; the strong ones are the weakest ones in my eyes until I obtain the rights of others from them."
8. Privacy and Legality of Penalty. In Islam, there is no penalty without law, and it is not possible to punish someone else instead of the culprit.
The principle of privacy and legality of penalty is stated as follows in the chapter of al-Anam: " Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another." (Verse: 164)
9. Independency and Impartiality of Courts.In Islam, courts, which are the institutions of justice, are kept away from all kinds of external pressure, personal hatred and grudge, and arbitrary practices; judges are not allowed to lose their impartiality. In the Islamic courts, the heads of states were tried side by side with ordinary citizens; they were punished if they were found guilty.
10. Dwelling and Privacy Immunity.In Islam, nobody has the right to intervene in the privacy of a person and to enter his dwelling without permission. It is forbidden to spy on the private affairs of people in Islam.
11. Freedom of Travel.It is regarded that travel helps people learn things and recover from illnesses in Islam. Therefore, people are encouraged to travel.
12. Right to live and guarantee of the protection of life, property and chastity.This issue is stated in the best way by the Messenger of Allah in the Farewell Sermon:
"O People!, just as you regard this month, this day, and this city, Makkah, as sacred, so regard the life, property and honor of every Muslim as a sacred trust. They are protected from all kinds of violation."
13. Social Security. The religion of Islam protects man so that he will not suffer from and will not be harmed by old age, illnesses, disasters and accidents; it guarantees the future of the needy through the social security measures it has introduced. Islam encourages people to work in the first place so that they will secure themselves financially. In addition, it has provided a separate security in the family and among neighbors thanks to various measures it has introduced. When all of these security measures are insufficient, the state itself guarantees the security of the individuals. The institution of zakah and foundations are perfect social security institutions.
14. Freedom of work, wages justice and equality. Working and making efforts are appreciated and encouraged a lot in Islam. It is not regarded nice to beg and be a burden on others. To work in order to make one’s living through legitimate means is regarded as worship if that person fulfills his fard duties. The verse "That man can have nothing but what he strives for" shows the importance Islam gives to effort and work.
Guaranteeing freedom of work — on condition that it is earned legitimately —, Islam arranges the relationships between employees and employer in the best way.
The principle "Pay the worker his wage before his sweat dries" guarantees the right of the worker in the perfect way.
As a principle, the worker will try to do the task he is assigned fully and in the best way and deserve the wage he gets.
15. Protection of Children. Islam takes care of children beginning from their birth, helps parents for their expenditure on food and clothing and allocates some money for them from the Treasure. Today, all rich states give parents child benefits. The Messenger of Allah insistently ordered his army not to kill women and especially children during war.
16. Basic Education is Compulsory and Free. The hadith "Seeking knowledge is fard for every Muslim, whether male or female" introduces compulsory education. Basic education curriculum has been prepared meticulously in Islam.
Along with, religious, ethical and literary knowledge, vocational knowledge is included in basic education. Islam regards it necessary for a child to learn vocational knowledge along with religious knowledge.
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